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Minnie Bruce Pratt, Poet, Essayist, and Activist, Dead at 76

Minnie Bruce Pratt, Poet, Essayist, and Activist, Dead at 76

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Pratt was a lesbian and feminist who fought oppression in all its forms and was the longtime partner of trans activist Leslie Feinberg.

Minnie Bruce Pratt, the esteemed poet, lesbian and feminist activist, and longtime partner of trans activist Leslie Feinberg, has died.

Pratt died Sunday in Syracuse, N.Y., at age 76, “surrounded by friends and family,” reports, a website for several Alabama newspapers. Her death was first announced by her sons, Ben and Ransom Weaver, on Pratt’s website. They posted in June that Pratt had been “diagnosed with a severe health problem” and was receiving palliative care at her home in Syracuse.

Pratt, a native of Alabama, published eight collections of poetry. Crime Against Nature, which focused on her experience as a lesbian raising sons. The Academy of American Poets chose it in 1989 as its Lamont Poetry Selection, an honor bestowed annually for the best second full-length book of poetry by a U.S. author.

“Pratt tells a moving story of loss and recuperation, discovering linkages between her own disenfranchisement and the condition of other minorities,” the judges wrote, according to Pratt’s website. “She makes it plain, in this masterful sequence of poems, that the real crime against nature is violence and oppression.”

In 1991, The New York Times named Crime Against Nature a Notable Book of the Year, and the American Library Association honored the volume with its Gay and Lesbian Book Award for Literature.

Several of her other poetry and essay collections garnered awards, and in 1992, she, Chrystos, and Audre Lorde received the Lillian Hellman-Dashiell Hammett award from the Fund for Free Expression. The award recognizes writers who have experienced political persecution.

Her essay “Identity: Skin Blood Heart” has been “adopted for teaching use in hundreds of college courses and community groups,” her site notes. It was published in the 1992 collection Rebellion: Essays 1980-1991.

Her memoir S/he chronicles her coming-out and her life with Feinberg. “In 1992 I met Leslie at hir slideshow/lecture in Washington, D.C., where ze spoke on the historical basis for unity among people who experience different oppressions — and where ze read, looking up at me, from hir classic ‘Letter to a Fifties Femme,’” Pratt wrote on her website. “Not long after, ze became my ‘one and only,’ my beloved.”

‘My adult life has been an exhilarating struggle to resist, militantly, the oppressive categories that the ruling status quo places on us — and to live, triumphantly, the identities and complexities that we feel to be true for ourselves,” Pratt continued. “As my life and Leslie’s flowed together, I gained immeasurably in my understanding of that struggle — in my understanding of how we live all our sexualities, sex identities and gender expressions.” Pratt and Feinberg were together from 1992 until Feinberg’s death in 2014.

Pratt was coauthor or coeditor of several other books. She held adjunct teaching positions at numerous colleges and universities before finishing her academic career as professor of women’s and gender studies as well as writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University. She divided her time between Centreville, Ala., and Syracuse.

A public celebration of Pratt’s life will be held later, her sons said, noting that details will be posted on her website. They asked that donations be made to the to the Friends of Dorothy House in Syracuse, which provides care and support to people living with HIV or AIDS.

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